Saturday, October 17, 2009

List of Publications - Isthmus 2009

Oliva is a new bright spot in west-side dining
When the nomadic, horse-riding Seljuq Turks migrated from their ancestral homeland of Central Asia and crossed the Volga into the Black Sea steppes circa 1300 A.D., they brought a highly distinctive philosophy towards food with them: In austerity is great beauty. The Turks have long employed a deep restraint in their arts, a design esthetic that cuts through the opulence of Western Europe like a scythe through a hunk of warm çökelek.
Bucatini Trattoria: Basta pasta in Middleton
In a college town, serving spaghetti and meatballs to carousing students is a solid business plan. It doesn't have to be high art. Nonetheless, I was hopeful that Enzo Amodeo's new Bucatini Trattoria in Middleton might be a step up from the plate-o'-bland-pasta approach.
Ironworks Cafe shines at breakfast and lunch at Goodman
The Goodman Community Center's new Ironworks Café -- a gorgeously retrofitted space well suited to breakfast or lunch lounging -- is an asset to the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood.
Chew on this!
In the past couple of decades, the act of dining out has achieved a central focus in our popular culture. It's the meal as theater, classic art or sporting event. Or perhaps it's more mundane than that; we're busier and we eat more meals out of the house. Regardless, we know you like to read about it.
Wine with your meal?
There are real differences between wines, but there are no absolute standards. Once you realize this, wine tasting becomes a lot more fun. For once, it really is all about you!
12 months of meals in Madison and beyond
We kept up with the openings (and closings), menu revamps, and special event dinners in the pages of Isthmus and on If you've been meaning to try out some of the newest kitchens in town, or revisit old favorites that have tweaked their menus, this compilation is a good place to start.
Tagging along with Tory Miller
"The most important thing is the relationships." It's 6:45 on a sunny Saturday morning, and I'm walking around the Capitol Square discussing how fresh food from Wisconsin farms gets to Tory Miller's kitchen -- and finally to your plate.
Ha Long Bay Bistro serves Viet, Thai and Lao cuisines
Bright neon green curtains enhance the comfortable new space for Ha Long Bay Bistro, previously occupied by Bab's French Quarter Kitchen. Bamboo pagoda lamps, rice paddy hats and nautical and floral images create a pleasing visual flow. Tiny bamboo plants in faux-jade baby elephant planters rest on each table. Cuisine is derived from Vietnamese, Thai and Laotian recipes.
BLT Pick, Pot stickers, Summer beer

The bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich is rough but sublime, or "messy, but worth it!" as my date put it. The sandwich is a welcome inversion of a typical BLT: Fresh avocado dominates; the crunch of the bacon just provides support to the tangy tomato and lettuce. "We get our bacon from Fountain Prairie Farm and Pecatonica Valley Farm," general manager Ben Hunter told me. The fresh baguette provides chewy substance, and roasted red bell peppers frame the plate.

Purist's delight, Quality pho, Have a drink, help a marten
In Vietnamese cuisine, a tureen of quality pho is the critical benchmark. Here, Ha Long Bay really makes good. Thinly shaved beef is perched atop a tower of noodles in an intoxicating broth of white and green onions. Freshly cut limes, jalapeños and raw bean sprouts are provided on the side to accent your soup to taste; a squeeze of lime is transformative.
New deal, End of summer fest, Beer here
The best deal for lunch is the buffet (which has recently dropped to $8). Beef dopiaza is terrific: chunks of tender, seasoned beef in a succulent preparation of tomatoes, onions and thick gravy. Karhi pakora is made by rolling balls made of chickpea flour and frying them in vegetable oil, then serving in yogurt sauce. This classic north Indian interplay between savory and sour is an excellent example of the regional style Flavor of India showcases.
Jovian Taphaus tries to integrate beer hall and fine dining
The Jovian Taphaus tries to mash sports bar, beer hall and upscale restaurant into one entity and succeed as a community watering hole for the Grandview Commons neighborhood. Plus, the place needs to whisk away memories of its predecessor, Cloud 9 Grille, which flamed out last March. It's a tall order.
Hüsnü's daughters bring premium Turkish olive oil to Madison
The clan of Hüsnü Atis is deeply interwoven into the fabric of the Madison community. The name probably sounds familiar to any Madison resident on the strength of Hüsnü's restaurant: this State Street institution opened in 1979 and has served Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean food to a receptive Madison since.
Madison New Year's feasts to ring out 2009
Sure, you can go to the local tavern in boots and flannel to drink beer, eat peanuts, and sing "Auld Lang Syne" with your pals. But if you'd rather deck out in spectacular evening wear for New Year's Eve, many of Madison's finest restaurants are putting on ritzy dinners to anchor your evening and provide a stage to show off that finery.

'The best thing I ate all year'
Lombardino's took advantage of its wood-burning grill to lightly toast shiitake, white button and oyster mushrooms. Tossed with black truffle vinaigrette, strewn over an earthy, dense cornmeal paste imported from Anson Mills (one of the oldest polenta makers in Italy) and finished in a porcini mushroom broth with braised kale, this entree was spectacular.

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